Wynton’s Blog

Last night we played our first church, the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC

Last night we played our first church, the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. We were presented by Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The church was packed with as diverse an audience as I’ve ever seen thanks to the efforts of all involved. Rev. Clifford Jones, Sr. was a most gracious, eloquent host and honored us by listening intently to every moment of the piece.

This is the home church of U.S. Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx. He was in attendance with his mother. I first met him when he was in his early twenties and some time later, met his wonderful mom. All these years of meeting young people, I am still amazed at how the aspirations of their parents or parent, in this case, inspire(s) their personal paths. My brothers and I talk about our father all the time, but our mother truly lifted us with the deep investment of her hopes and wishes, and made us set higher personal goals.

Today, we will hear, first, from a lady who ran the Bank of America Foundation, was instrumental in acquiring the John and Vivian Hewitt art collection for the Harvey B. Gantt Center in Charlotte, and taught her son to aim high, Ms. Laura Foxx:

My son Anthony came into town today for a visit. He invited me to join him to hear Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass, performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau conducted by Damien Sneed.

They played in our home church. The sanctuary and its location on Charlotte’s Westside provided the perfect venue for a performance that matched beautiful composition with high order spiritual feeling.

Three traditional prayers, “The Lord’s Prayer,” “Gloria Patri” and “Doxology,” provided a familiar settling ground for a capella choir and full orchestration, and were done with originality and intelligence – a very difficult combination.

The orchestra successfully brought the feeling of jazz into a spiritual place. In the Choral Response, “Through Him I’ve Come to See,” and the Anthem, “Glory to God in the Highest,” I heard modern variations on Bach Cantatas, Negro Spirituals and old-school Gospel, all accented by horns and an improvising rhythm section. I can still hear and see the male quartet singing and dancing the Invitation’s, “Come and Join the Army.”

My favorite piece of all came near the end, the Recessional, “Ride the Glory Train.” I felt that we had been doing that the entire evening, but I probably loved it because of my son’s new job.

Now, Damien will introduce our first choral post. Ann McCormack, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and one of the sopranos in Chorale Le Chateau shares her feelings after the memorable experience. I met Ann while studying at Manhattan School of Music:

I woke up this morning brimming with gratitude and love.

Last night, the JLCO and Chorale Le Chateau had the privilege of performing the Abyssinian Mass in one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. Friendship Missionary Baptist Church is the first church we’ve performed in during the course of the tour. Performing the Mass in this setting definitely puts the piece into perspective; you can feel the true meaning of this work.

During the concert, there was a humming energy from my fellow choir members. It was clear that we were deepening our understanding of why we are performing this music. I was overcome with LOVE – love for everyone around me, as we were transcending, tapping into the divine. After the concert, I spoke to an audience member who said that she was deeply moved by our performance, I said, “Fantastic! That means we did our job!” to which she replied, “Yes, you did…and then some.”

Today, we travel to Athens, GA, and have the night off. On Thursday evening, we look forward to performing for a sold out house at the University of Georgia Performing Arts Center.


“Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration”, will be on tour on October 3-23, and will be webcast live on October 24th, 25th and 26th at 8PM ET on wyntonmarsalis.org/live

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